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Sarmat, Rubezh, Bulava and other missiles to modernize Russia's Strategic Forces

October 01, 2014, 19:00 UTC+3 Litovkin Viktor
© Press office of the Western Military District for the Northern Fleet

MOSCOW, October 1. /TASS/. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have called, almost unanimously, for upgrading Russia’s Strategic Forces.

In a live television broadcast, Rogozin said “we are ahead of schedule in creating the technical basis for the Strategic Nuclear Forces and we will renovate them entirely, not just by 70%” by 2020.

He stressed at the same time, that Russia will not engage in saber rattling or surprise anyone. “We should keep some things secret and make a surprise at the very critical moment,” he said.

A short while later, Sergey Lavrov told reporters that “Russia will renovate its weapon stocks, both conventional and nuclear” and emphasised that “this is not an arms race. But the time has come… to modernise our strategic capabilities and armed forces in general”.

In the middle of August, President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting in Yalta with political parties’ factions in the State Duma, said that the Russian defense industry’s developments would surprise its Western partners.

“We need modern compact armed forces. We have adopted a program to this end. It sets an ambitious goal and requires an enormous amount of money - up to 20 trillion roubles - which has yet to be invested. What we are talking about is modern weapons,” he said.

Putin said something had already been done in terms of nuclear deterrence but made it clear that this was an issue to be discussed at the proper time.

New strategic missile Rubezh

Much of what Vladimir Putin hinted at and what Dmitry Medvedev and Sergey Lavrov spoke about is well known to specialists. Colonel General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, former head of the Main Operational Directorate in the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and now the commander of the Central Military District, told the supreme commander-in-chief at a Kremlin reception at the end of last year that a new strategic missile called Rubezh (Frontier) was about to be adopted by the army in the very near future.

Many of its characteristics are a deep secret, but it is known that the missile will most likely have its own multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV), like Yars and Bulava. Its capacity (in TNT equivalent) is yet unknown.

There is no need for Russia’s modern strategic missiles to have a megatonne or half-a-megatonne warhead as their predecessors did but lacked accuracy. Since the warheads used on modern missiles such as Topol-M, Yars or Bulava hit the mark, many experts say that the capacity of their MIRVS can range from 100 to 250 kilotonnes. This would be enough to deter a possible aggressor and cool the hotheads among overly excited politicians, especially since Rubezh systems will have a range of 10,000-11,000 kilometres.

Any inquisitive person can place a pair of compasses anywhere in Russia, for example beyond the Urals, and draw a circle of 11,000 kilometres to see what falls within their range.

Sarmat missile system

Another new strategic missile system called Sarmat is expected to become available by about the same time - 2020 - and replace Voyevoda missiles which are classified in the West as Satan (SS-18).

Voyevoda is the biggest and most formidable missile ever created. It weighs 210 tonnes and carries ten nuclear warheads, 700 kilotonnes each. The Soviet Union used to have 308 of them. Russia has 52 and they are still on combat duty in the Orenburg Region and Altai. They were made in Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk, but Russia can no longer count on further cooperation with it because of the complicated relations with Ukraine. The military say that the systems currently on combat duty will most likely have to be replaced with Sarmat missiles sooner.

According to open sources, a Sarmat missile will weigh over 110 tonnes and its multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles will be able to manoeuvre when approaching the target.

This will allow them to pierce the missile defense the United States is building on our border and the ones it will create in the future. No system will be able to track a missile or its warheads flying along their individual ballistic trajectories if they suddenly veer off their paths and travel on at supersonic or even hypersonic speed keeping close to the surface, changing the course and altitude. Such missiles cannot be destroyed.

Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told journalists that Sarmat would have a range of more than 11,000 kilometres.

The timeline for putting the new missiles on combat duty is linked to the end of the Russian-US New START Treaty signed in Prague, under which the parties are required to have 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads, 700 deployed strategic missiles and 100 such missiles in stock by 2021 when the treaty expires.

As of January 1, 2014, Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces had 489 deployed strategic missiles armed with 1,494 nuclear warheads, which is far below the levels set in the New START.

The US has about 798 deployed missiles and 2,150 warheads on them.

In the next six years, Russia will have to put on combat duty Rubezh, Sarmat and Yars systems and the sea-launched Bulava missile, deployed on Project 955 Borei-Class nuclear submarines, without any haste or arms race. It will have eight such missile carriers by 2020, each carrying 16 or 20 missiles with 6-10 MIRVS.

At a time when the state is earmarking enormous amounts of money (2.3 trillion roubles this year compared to 600 billion roubles in 2003) for rearmament, failing to fulfill one’s obligations to the country and other “interested” global actors would be improper, to say the least.


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